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No tax hike for Bucks County

Bucks County commissioners have decided against raising taxes to plug a $7.1 million budget shortfall, instead trimming some expenses and dipping into the county's surplus. This is the fourth consecutive year the commission has held taxes level.

Commissioners approved the $447 million budget by a 2-1 vote this morning. Commissioner Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia said she voted against the budget because it didn't address programs she had suggested, including spending an additional $5 million to manage a program for bridge maintenance.

"It's about programs," she said. "Your budget isn't just about taxes; it's a document that expresses the quality of your programs as well."

Commissioner James F. Cawley suggested that the county give an additional $150,000 to the county library system after state funds were cut. The commissioners unanimously approved the measure.

The finance department managed to whittle the deficit from $7.1 million to $5.7 million; sharp increases in county employee health care and pension contributions made up the majority of the gap, said Brian Hessenthaler, county finance director.

The county will tap into its reserve, leaving $63.9 million in the pot, said David Boscola, the county's deputy finance director. The county is required to keep in its reserve 10 percent of its total expenditures, which would be about $44 million, Boscola said.